After blow hot, blow cold, Mamata may reach out to Congress

Ahead of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s scheduled visit to Delhi later this week, a possible rapprochement between the Trinamool Congress and the Congress, the two largest parties in the Opposition bloc, is on the cards.

The arrest of three Congress MLAs of Jharkhand with a large amount of cash in West Bengal’s Howrah, combined with the fact that the TMC is on the backfoot over the arrest of its leader Partha Chatterjee in the recruitment scandal, may act as catalysts for a thaw in the ties between the two parties — a possibility that has implications for the larger Opposition unity.

Sources said the Trinamool is keen to project the arrests of the Jharkhand Congress MLAs as a successful operation by the West Bengal administration in thwarting an alleged bid by the BJP to topple the Hemant Soren government in which the Congress is a constituent.

“The complaint filed by a Congress leader in Ranchi that the three MLAs offered him cash and tried to lure him with the promise of a ministry in the new government has only strengthened our case,” said a source in the Trinamool Congress.

In his complaint, Congress MLA Kumar Jaimangal Singh has alleged that the three MLAs, now suspended from the party, had told him that “Sarma (an apparent reference to Himanta Biswa Sarma) is doing this with the help of top shots of the BJP sitting in Delhi.”

The TMC is also gearing up to corner the BJP by raising in Parliament allegations of sexual harassment against a Gujarat minister, with three of its MPs giving adjournment notices on the matter.

Party sources point out that the attempt to raise the matter will help take some heat off the Congress, which came under attack from the BJP over Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s “Rashtrapatni” comment in reference to President Droupadi Murmu.

TMC Rajya Sabha floor leader Derek O’Brien had indicated as much on July 29, tweeting, “Dear PM @narendramodi and @AmitShah, Look forward to seeing you both Monday morning Parliament Monsoon Session. Since you are ever so eager to raise issues of Oppn disrespecting women, all of us will be waiting.”

Meanwhile, Banerjee is likely to reach Delhi on August 4. During her stay, she will attend the NITI Aayog Governing Council meeting on August 7. She will also hold strategy meetings with party MPs.

The vice-presidential election is scheduled for August 6, but the Trinamool has already announced that it will abstain from voting, claiming that it was kept away from the consultations of the Opposition camp where the decision to field Margaret Alva against NDA candidate Jagdeep Dhankar was taken.

There is no confirmation so far on whether Banerjee’s itinerary includes any meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi or other Opposition leaders.

Her visit also comes at a time there is a growing buzz over a possible gathering of non-Congress Opposition parties in the capital.

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